"We left some points out on the field," Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "In a game like this against a team like this, you have to capitalize on the points you have the opportunities to score."
Florida State tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker – who both were quiet in the first half rushing for just 67 combined – broke out in the second for a combined 182 yards and two touchdowns. Washington finished with 164 yards while Booker ended up with 85.
With the Orange leading 10-3, Washington tied the score on a 21-yard run with 2:41 left in the third quarter. On the ensuing Seminoles possession, Booker scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 13:29 left in the fourth quarter.
"The second half we just came out in the kicking frame of mind and decided to run the ball," Washington said.
Syracuse's lone score in the second half came after Florida State's Chris Davis fumbled a punt. The Orange recovered, and was thrown back four yards before Barber connected on a 39-yard field goal to pull the Orange within four.
Even though Syracuse's offense was non-existent for the most part in the second half, the Orange still had a chance to win the game on their final drive. With the ball at their own 21 and 2:36 left on the clock, quarterback Perry Patterson completed a passes to Reyes and Andre Fontenette.
Patterson then took it himself for 15 yards up to the Florida State 46. After a face mask penalty put the ball on the Syracuse 45, Patterson hit Landel Bembo for a 10-yard strike to give Syracuse a first down at the Seminole 30.
But Patterson fired incomplete to Damien Rhodes and again to Fontenette. With 13 seconds left, Patterson again threw to the endzone, but was picked off by Sam McGrew to seal the win for Florida State.
"The last thing we thought would happen was an interception and there was an interception," Pasqualoni said. "It's like the Virginia Tech game a few years back, that ball is in the air and you hope the guy in the orange helmet is going to come down with it."
The loss was especially hard on Reyes, who fumbled the ball late in the second half with Syracuse threatening to go up 17-3. Reyes and Rhodes both struggled, finishing for a combined 20 yards on 21 carries.
After Syracuse forced the Seminoles into a three-and-out with 3:56 left, the Orange – led by Patterson, who finished 19-for-28 for 207 yards and a touchdown – took the ball from their own 18-yard line to the Florida State 5. Patterson threw three long completions to Fontenette (33 yards), Reyes (24) and Rhodes (13).
But with 53 seconds in the half, Reyes fumbled the ball and Florida State recovered to close the half.
"I wish I could get that play back more than anything on the field," Reyes said. "It's inexcusable on my part. That shouldn't happen."
The Orange had the support of the 40,539 on hand early after a reverse to Bembo on the second play of the game. He took the ball 32 yards, which set up a 39-yard field goal with 10:26 left in the first quarter.
After Florida State tied the game, Xavier Beitia booted the kickoff out of bounds and the Orange was spotted the ball at the 35. Patterson completed a pass over the middle, and was knocked down after he threw the ball for a roughing the passer penalty.
The penalty plus the catch put Syracuse at the Seminole 44. That's when Patterson faked an option, dropped back and threw deep to Jared Jones for the touchdown to give Syracuse a 10-3 lead.
"It was an option pass," Patterson said. "We knew Florida State would play it aggressively."
That would be the score going into halftime, but it could've easily have been a wider margin.
Midway through the second quarter, Florida State drove all the way to the Syracuse 37. But Booker fumbled the ball and Diamond Ferri recovered, running the ball back to Florida State's 45.
The Orange got within field goal range, but Collin Barber's attempt from 42 yards out missed wide right. It would be the first of Barber's two misses – the second would be a 37-yard attempt early in the third quarter.
"You know this is a team deal," Pasqualoni said. "One person doesn't win or lose a game. That would've helped, but it's a team thing."
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